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Tholos of Delphi

Tholos of Delphi by Joy of Museums

Tholos of Delphi

The Tholos of Delphi is among the most recognised ancient structures of the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia in Delphi. A tholos is an architectural feature that was widely used in the classical world. It is a round structure, built upon a podium, with a ring of columns supporting a roof. This circular temple shares the Sanctuary of Athena with other ancient foundations belonging to the Temple of Athena Pronaia, located less than a mile east of the main Archaeological Site of Delphi.

The external architect of Tholos consisted of twenty Doric columns supported a frieze with triglyphs and metopes. Materials used included Pentelic marble in the superstructure and limestone at the platform. The building’s roof was also constructed of marble and was decorated with female statues.

This 4th century BC building introduced innovative artistic styles in a creative competition between the art of relief and sculpted plastic art. The temple was decorated with dramatic figures demonstrating the passion and the fury of enemies in lively battle scenes. Unfortunately, the reliefs on the metopes could be easily detached and be reused as building materials and tomb covers in the early Christian years.

Delphi

Delphi is renowned as the ancient sanctuary of the Oracle which was consulted about important decisions throughout the ancient classical world. The Greeks considered Delphi the navel of the world. It occupies a site on the south-western slope of Mount Parnassus and had a phenomenal influence in the ancient world, as evidenced by the rich monuments built there by most of the important ancient Greek city-states.

The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia where the Tholos is located is not the main or largest Delphi site or the seat of Pythia, the oracle, it was an important sanctuary just before arriving at the main site.

Reflections

  • How many thousands of ancient masterpieces were recycled during a war and normal daily routines?
  • Do the three reconstructed Doric columns of the tholos help one visualise the original building? Therefore does reconstruction have a vital role to play in such ancient archaeological sites?

Explore

Tholos of Delphi

  • Title:           Tholos of Delphi
  • Date:          380 and 370 BC.
  • Material:    Marble, limestone
  • Town:          Delphi
  • Greek:         Δελφοί
  • Country:     Greece

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“Love of money and nothing else will ruin Sparta.”
– Oracle of Delphi

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Photo Credit: JOM